We’re just past the quarter-pole in the Timberwolves season, but there seems to be a disproportionate amount of worry surrounding the Wolves’ record. Put simply: it’s too early to panic.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently 13-9 heading into Friday’s game in Oklahoma City, but before beating the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, they had lost three of their past four games and have still lost four of their last seven overall.
Some fans began to panic via social media and some even were calling for Tom Thibodeau to be fired. Not surprising, because it’s social media, but still.
Though the Wolves have lost some games they should have won, it is still too early to panic.
The 2003-04 team started the season 9-8 before finishing the season 58-24 and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. They also had the league’s best overall regular season record. Will this Wolves team do the same thing? Not likely, but it is still very early in the season, and like that Wolves team of old, this team has plenty of new faces. It takes time for teams with plenty of new faces to gel as a unit. Once they do, they will start playing better.
The biggest disappointment, of course, has been the play of the defense. Last season, Minnesota was tied for 18th in the league with 106.7 points allowed per game. This season, they are 21st with 107.2 points allowed per game, and this is despite the fact that they are in year two under Thibodeau and acquired Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson over the summer.
Butler expressed his frustration last week after a 109-97 loss at home to the Miami Heat.
"“To me it doesn’t matter. We haven’t guarded anybody all year long,” Butler said, via 1500 ESPN in Minnesota. “So different mistakes, same mistakes, we have to eventually figure it out and want to play defense and stop trying to outscore the opponent. It starts with me and goes all the way down the line.”"
The offense, however, has taken a step forward. Last season, they were 13th in the league with 105.6 points scored per game. This season, they are 10th with 107.8 points per game through 22 games played.
The offense is improving as expected, but the defense has not. But there are still 60 games left, and barring a serious rash of injuries, this team should make the playoffs and could perhaps even challenge for the fifth seed in the West.
Butler and Gibson have been nice additions. Jeff Teague has been decent and Jamal Crawford has given the team a nice scoring option off the bench. His 3-point shooting has certainly helped in an area that was a weakness for the Wolves last season.
Begin howling, Wolves fans. Things may not be as good as we all had hoped for after 22 games, but it is still early and things will get better.
The December isn’t too bad, either. The Timberwolves face the Los Angeles Clippers twice, who will be without Blake Griffin for two months due to injury, and the Denver Nuggets without Paul Millsap who will be out for several months with an injury of his own. They also face the Phoenix Suns twice, the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles and the Sacramento Kings to name a few more.
It’s time for things to begin clicking at Target Center.